The URANTIA Papers
Origin of the Urantia Book
AUTHOR: DR. MEREDITH J. SPRUNGER, PhD
STATUS: Published by The Christian Fellowship
NOTES: Permission is granted to duplicate without changes. If copies are made, please be sure to credit the author.
THE BROTHERHOOD OF MAN LIBRARY
Electronic Data Transmission Outreach for Students of The URANTIA Book
The Origin of The URANTIA Book
Years of experience have demonstrated that the first thing people wish to know about The URANTIA Book is its authorship and origin. It does little good to tell them that the book should be judged by its content, not by claims of authorship or events associated with its publication. This is a natural reaction as we have been conditioned by our culture to depend on sources and authority in evaluating publications of all kinds. Religious literature, in particular, is appraised in this way.
The authenticity of persons or literature which are classified by religious groups as having revelatory authority or which make claim to such status is always open to question. Hopefully, we have left behind those days of cultural naivete when claim or authority have any meaning as criterion of truth. There are only two sources through which this question can be approached with any credibility. The one is personal judgment based on the evidence of the quality of the material being evaluated. The other is the testimony of the judgment of society through years of historical experience. Social tradition is an especially powerful influence. Even when Biblical scholars like Rudolf Bultmann declare that our reliable historical knowledge of Jesus is so meager, "We can know almost nothing concerning the life and personality of Jesus," few people are troubled by such statements.Our historical experience has socially validated the quality of the New Testament.
At present there are obviously no traditions associated with The URANTIA Book. It must be analyzed and judged on the basis of the quality of its content . Although, technically, they have little relevance in determining the quality of The URANTIA Book, there are two sources of information regarding its origin.
THE AUTHORS' ACCOUNT
First is the account you will find in the book itself. We are told the URANTIA papers were authorized by high deity authorities and written by numerous supermortal personalities. These papers are designated as the fifth epochal revelation to our planet, Urantia.The authors acknowledge the difficulty of attempting to portray the realities of eternity in the language of time. We are told there are severe limitations placed on the knowledge they are allowed to share with man. They even admit that all time-space revelation is partial and incomplete needing to be upstepped in the process of planetary development.
In general terms the authors discuss the problems associated with bridging communication between the spiritual levels of the universe and material mortals on our planet. They speak of necessary preparations such as making contact with the Thought Adjuster (indwelling spirit of God) of a human being on our world but hasten to assure us they are not involved in phenomena related to "spiritualism"or "mediumship." Specific details are not discussed. The book simply states the URANTIA papers were materialized in the English language in 1934 and 1935.
THE HUMAN STORY
The second source of information related to the origin of The URANTIA Book is the human side of the story. Following my discovery of the book in December of 1955 and after introducing it to some of my clerical friends, we spent years researching the human side of the origin of the book. While space does not allow reporting in detail,the following is a summary of our findings.
We quickly discovered the papers were received by a small group of people in Chicago and that the leader of this group was Dr. William S.Sadler. As you may know, Dr. Sadler was a highly respected psychiatrist who is sometimes referred to as the father of American psychiatry. For many years he taught at the Post-graduated School of Medicine at Chicago University and for almost thirty years he was a lecturer in Pastoral Counseling at McCormick Theological Seminary.
Discussions with Dr. Sadler revealed that in the mid 1920's a group of people from all walks of life were meeting at the Sadler residence as a psychological-medical discussion group. It was known as the Forum.This group was in communication with the revelators and eventually members of the Forum assumed responsibility for forming the URANTIA Foundation and publishing The URANTIA Book.
Dr. Sadler candidly discussed any questions we asked him but he would not talk about two things - the name of the individual who was used in some way in the materialization of the URANTIA papers and details associated with this materialization. He said they were asked to take vows of secrecy regarding two things. When I asked him why these restrictions were imposed on them, he gave me the following reasons:
1. The main reason for not revealing the identity of the contact personality is that the revelators do not want any human being - any human name - ever to be associated with The URANTIA Book. They want this revelation to stand on its own declarations and teachings. They are determined that future generations shall have the book wholly free from all mortal connections - they do not want a St. Peter, St. Paul, Luther, Calvin, or Westly. The book does not even bear the imprint of the printer who brought the book into being.
2. There is much connected with the appearance of the URANTIA papers which no human being fully understands. No one really knows just how this phenomenon was executed. There are numerous missing links in the story of how this revelation came to appear in written English. If anyone should tell all he really knows about this technique and methods employed throughout the years of getting this revelation, such a narration would satisfy no one - there are too many missing links."
Our group of ministers found in the appendix of Sadler's book The Mind at Mischief written in 1929 statements which appear to refer to this individual. He says:
"Eighteen years of study and careful investigation have failed to reveal the psychic origin of these messages. I find myself at the present time just where I was when I started. Psychoanalysis, hypnotism, intensive comparison, fail to show that the written or spoken messages of this individual have origin in his own mind. Much of the material secured through this subject is quite contrary to his habit of thought, to the way in which he has been taught, and to his entire philosophy. In fact, of much that we have secured, we have failed to find anything of its nature in existence. Its philosophic content is quite new, and we are unable to find where very much of it has ever been found in human expression."p.383
During Dr. Sadler's investigation of this phenomenon he consulted with men like Howard Thurston, the renowned sleight of hand artist who devoted considerable time to exposing fraudulent mediums and psychics,and Sir Hubert Wilkens, the noted scientist and explorer who was interested in investigating psychic phenomena. All of them agreed that the phenomena connected with this individual could not be classified with other types of psychic phenomena such as automatic writing, telepathy, clairvoyance, trances, spirit mediumship, or split personality.
On May 7, 1958 our group of ministers had an appointment with Dr.Sadler to discuss phenomena associated with the origin of The URANTIA Book. When we arrived he had prepared a paper for us listing every imaginable form of subconscious mind or psychic activity at the bottom of the outline he had a note saying, "The technique of the reception of The URANTIA Book in English in no way parallels or impinges upon any of the above phenomena of the marginal consciousness." He went onto tell us that so nearly as he could determine, the appearance of the URANTIA papers was associated with some form of superconscious mind activity.
On numerous occasions Dr. Sadler told me that he really did not know how the materialization was accomplished and that just about everything known about the origin of The URANTIA Book is found in various places in the book.
In 1939 the revealators requested the leaders of the Forum ask for volunteers who would meet each Wednesday evening to seriously and systematically study the URANTIA papers. Seventy persons volunteered and they became known as "The Seventy." The Seventy were trained by directives from the revelators and their own leadership up to the time of the publication of The URANTIA Book. Special emphasis was placed on the evolutionary nature of the acceptance of new truth and the danger of using broadcast, indiscriminate, or revolutionary methods in presenting the message of The URANTIA Book.
After many years of study and discipline, they were given permission to publish the book. They were told the book did not belong to the era in which they were living but would slowly take root in our society in the years to come. An early publication of the book was given, they were told, so that leaders and teacher may be trained and so that men of means may be found to provide for translations into other languages. The cost of the first printing was $75,000, all of which was raised by voluntary contributions of those who had been members of the Forum.
URANTIA Foundation was established as a non-profit, educational organization in 1950 and they published The URANTIA Book under international copyright on October 12, 1955. URANTIA Brotherhood was also organized in 1955 as an ecumenical fellowship of people interested in studying and dissemination the teachings of The URANTIA Book. Both organizations have offices at 533 Diversey Parkway, Chicago, Illinois 60614.
JUDGE BY CONTENT
This brief account of events associated with the origin of The URANTIA Book, as we mentioned earlier, has nothing to do with the truth or spiritual quality of the book. This must be judged by the reader on the basis of the content of the book. The message of The URANTIA Book has amazing self- authentication and historical-philosophical truth consistency. The indwelling spirit in man is, in the final analysis, the only ground of being which can reject or affirm the truth of its message.
Meredith J. Sprunger, PhD (4-6-79)
How the Urantia Book Came into Existence
William S. Sadler Jr.
from: February 18, 1962
The following is transcribed from a tape recording made in the home of Berkeley Elliot on February 18, 1962. On this occasion, William S. Sadler, Jr., one of the "contact commissioners," was talking with the study group there assembled. What follows are comments which he made on this occasion concerning the origin of the Urantia Book.
[By way of The Jesusonian Foundation - Reproduced from the Urantia Fellowship Homepage]
"Many years ago my parents, who were physicians, had brought to their attention this individual who had some rather strange things happening to him. In one of the books my father wrote, "The Mind at Mischief", he made mention of this case in the last part of the book -- in the Appendix which was published in the 1920's. My father had spook-hunting as a hobby. He was an exposer of mediums. He had two running mates -- the head of the psychology department at Northwestern University and Howard Thurston, a professional magician. Take a physician, a psychologist and a magician, and God help the medium. There is a book now out of print which my father wrote called "The Truth About Spiritualism" in which he puts so-called spiritualists as falling into one of two categories. There are practicing frauds -- deliberately working for gain or for glory -- and there are people who are self-deceived. I think in that book he says "with one possible exception."
"These two physicians [Dr. and Mrs. Sadler] became interested in this case. This man would go to sleep and he'd talk and what came out was intriguing and different. He was never interested in the lost watch or the stock market or in talking with your Uncle George who had passed on -- never anything practical. This was different; distinctly offbeat. About this time a Sunday evening meeting came to be organized at our house. It came about when Pop was giving a commencement address at Ames. I was in High School at the time and he wrote me a letter saying that we were not church people but that Sunday should be productive as well as a day of rest. He asked what I would say if they invited in some friends and they had a discussion group -- kind of a forum -- and talked about health and history and politics, etc. That group came into existence in, I think, 1922. This group became interested in spiritualism because Pop was writing on that subject at the time.
"My dad was mischievous -- there was a mind-reading show -- vaudeville at McVickers. Pop attended twice. He took a pair of wire cutters and clipped the wires that hooked the guy in the audience with the gal on the stage. At which point she fainted and they asked if there was a doctor in the audience, and Pop had the gall to go back and take care of her.
"At about this time I was in Nicaragua so some of what I tell you is hearsay. 1924 to 1928 will be hearsay, but subsequent to 1928 I'll give you direct information. The question came up whether all such phenomena is fraudulent. My dad was an honest guy so he said there was one such case that was a puzzle. So they asked him to tell them about it. So the forum became intrigued with the shorthand notes that had been taken of things this man talked about.
"One evening when they were talking to this chap, a kind of an argument came up. They were talking with someone who claimed to be a "Mighty Messenger." They asked if he could prove he was a Mighty Messenger. " No," he said, "but you can't prove I'm not either. If you knew what I know, you wouldn't ask these half-baked questions. You would prepare some of the most deep, searching and far-reaching questions you could possibly imagine."
"My father was half English and half Irish and he got kind of mad -- they were checking out this phenomena and here they were being challenged. Pop looked at the others in the group and said, "Lets take him up on it."
"So the next Sunday when the Forum met the whole group came in on the deal. I was told that approximately five thousand questions were given. Some were silly -- how old is God, who created him, and so forth. What happened was this -- one day the questions were gone and where the questions were kept was the first of the Urantia Papers and was entitled, "The Universal Father."
"I'll tell you how I think this paper was written. And my theory is not one-hundred percent correct. But its the best I can find. Visualize several places in space -- points A, B, C and D. I think the papers were dictated or conceived at point A and had we been there when any of these papers were written we would have seen nothing. A Divine Counselor is presenting his concepts in the language of Uversa. A translator is there who translates it into the language of Salvington. There is another translator there who translates from the language of Salvington to the language of Satania and another translator who translates from Satania into English. You cannot translate from Uversa into English because the languages are too far apart.
"I suspect that 99% of the original concept was lost in translation -- English is too primitive a language. Take Bantu where they have one, two and then "many" -- the end of their numbers -- and you want to translate into large number systems, you simply can't do it. See the problem?
"Point A was linked by some sort of communication circuit to point B. At point B there would be something to see, but it would be rather dull. It would be a man asleep -- doing nothing. Remember the resurrection and the way the stone was moved by the Midwayers? At point C you would see a pencil moving over paper with no visible means of motion. That's where the physical writing took place. Now point D would be where we found the papers. This individual was never seen to write one of these papers -- and don't think we weren't wearing gumshoes looking. If he wrote them he was more clever than us -- he was never observed to write them.
"We tried everything we could think of to see how this was being done, but were baffled. The text was entirely written in pencil -- all in the handwriting of this individual who remarked that if they ever wanted to draw on his bank account he'd be a dead duck because the bank would pay on their signature.
"Who was this guy? I took an oath not to divulge who he was. That was required of all who know his identity and it was required by the commissioner who sponsored the last of the papers. We think we know why it was required. He would have asked us to maintain secrecy. One of the reasons this chap was picked is that he has a passion for anonymity -- a very stable man -- the exact opposite of what you think someone associated with this would be like. His head was solidly on his shoulders and his feet solidly on the ground -- someone who would be ashamed to be mixed up with something spooky. He doesn't want to be known.
"These papers were read to the forum. At the end of each paper was a note suggesting the next title on which questions should be asked. This is how they led us through the first time. They were read to the forum and they generated more questions and over a period of years this book accumulated. And eventually when we had money we published.
"In 1950 we completed the preparation of our plates. As money came in we forecast inflation, so we took the money we had and spent it in getting Donnelley to prepare the plates. If you went to Chicago, you'd see that the Urantia Foundation was established in 1950 by the anonymous donation of the plates of The Urantia Book. We got nickel coated plates. If you write to Donnelley, they'll tell you they negotiated with Kellogg. The Urantia Foundation owns the copyright. There are five trustees. In about 1954 these five trustees selected thirty-six people who organized the Urantia Brotherhood. The book was published in October of 1955 and has been spreading ever since.
"I was there most of the time. I'm a management man, not the kind of man you would expect to see mixed up in something like this -- and I was very suspicious of all this. I asked myself, "Who is making what out of this? Where's the gold Cadillac in all this?" I checked it out and found that it was going to cost money. I realized there was no commercial end. And, as the book cleared up some personal quarrels I had with religion, I felt it was pretty good merchandise. So I elected to spend my spare time selling this. I don't get paid, but I get a lot of satisfaction. This is a first hand story except for the years from 1924 to 1928. And this is the first time this has ever been recorded."
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